Which foods prevent colon cancer and which ones increase its risk

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Scientists analyzed all the available scientific evidence about the preventive value of various foods, nutrients and drugs.

Colon cancer is one of the most serious cancer problems of our time. Expectedthat by 2030 its prevalence will increase by 60%, to 2.2 million cases. Screening for this disease is poorly available in many countries, so prevention is paramount. One of the most important tools for preventing this cancer is a healthy lifestyle.

In a new large analysis, scientists tested which foods and medications actually reduce the risk of colon cancer. Scientific work published In the magazine Gut… The authors reviewed 80 studies published in English or French from 1980 to 2019.


Scientists attributed aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (paracetamol and others) and statins to effective medical factors that reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Aspirin at a dose of just 75 milligrams per day has been associated with a 14-29% reduction in the risk of this cancer in various studies. Its prophylactic value increased as the dose increased to 325 milligrams per day.

Taking anti-inflammatory drugs for 5 years has been associated with a 26-43% reduction in the risk of colon cancer. The evidence that has been collected for statins has been conflicting. Their preventive effect was confirmed by observational studies. But clinical trials of the drugs themselves did not confirm these data.


Colon cancer developed less frequently:

  • by 23% in people who received at least 255 milligrams of magnesium;
  • by 15-20% for those who received large amounts of folic acid;
  • by 13-19% among those who regularly ate dairy products (exact data on the required quantity and nature of the products are not given);
  • by 22-43% for those who got enough fiber;
  • by 52% among those who regularly ate fruits and vegetables;
  • by 8-15% for soy lovers.

The available scientific evidence has not allowed to confirm the protective effect of vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, multivitamins and selenium. Evidence for the preventive value of tea, garlic, onions, vitamin D is weak. Information about vitamins A and B today remains too controversial.

Alcohol and meat are risk factors

The risk of colon cancer increased by 12-21% when eating red and processed meat. This risk grew with the amount of meat consumed. Alcohol has been associated with cancer risk even at the lowest doses studied, which are considered relatively safe (1-2 servings per day).

The researchers note that the studies they analyzed were very different in design, so it was difficult to compare them. Therefore, for some substances and products, it was simply not possible to determine the “effective preventive doses”. But the reviewers hope that it will help professionals make informed dietary recommendations for patients.



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